aly

So, I have this little problem. In an effort to do something REALLY well, I tend to end up procrastinating on it. Thus, this WAAAAYYYY overdue blog post. I received a ridiculously awesome and unexpected package from my friend, Aly, in the mail in late February (I had to check the date today). And I knew I wanted and *had* to publicly tell the world how absolutely incredible this woman is. I wanted to just do the perfect post. And due to depression and lack of motivation and feeling like I never had the time and laziness and all of that crap, I never did one. And because I got in my head that this was the ONLY way to thank her, I never called her or wrote her or did anything because I was going to surprise *her* the way she surprised me, but again … no. I didn’t.

I tell you this because I just want to be honest and say that this is way overdue. I’m embarrassed. But I want to be honest about my shortcomings. I want to say that it was wrong. I should have just called and said, “Aly. What an awesome thing to come home to. Thank you so much. I miss you.” And then, I could have written this blog post whenever I got around to it, and it still would have been an extra, bonus surprise. But this is life, and it is messy and imperfect, so here we are.

Let me tell you about Aly. I met her a couple of years ago, through my friend, Bill. She got to know a bunch of my friends and was quickly integrated into my friend circle. Everyone loves Aly. She’s smart and funny and has that great Midwestern sensibility about her — down to earth and quick to lend a hand and even quicker to bring delicious food. She’s an amazing host and a fast friend. I really loved getting to know her. She’s really good with the small details, which as anyone worth anything at all will tell you, is really a valuable asset in any relationship, and becomes invaluable in a friendship. I fail in that respect all the time.

Aly joined a book club I was in … the treatmaster would rotate every three months or so, and Aly took the commitment at one point. Normally, the treatmaster would just bring store-bought cookies that people would eat before the meeting and during our little coffee klatch, but Aly … not Aly. She would bring homemade cookies, bars, cakes and pies from her very own kitchen to the meetups. People already loved Aly for her friendly smile and kindhearted personality, but there is no surer way to someone’s heart than their sweet tooth.

And really, her baked goods were just an outward manifestation of the sweetness that is inside Aly. But we sure did get spoiled by those treats, we did. Here’s the deal: Aly worked for a law firm or something like that when she lived in Chicago — but her heart was always really in the kitchen. Some of her friends nicknamed her “Martha” cause she was such a whiz with things that would have left us baffled. She made homemade ice cream. She made homemade marshmallows. She made crazy good cake, pie and bars. (Did I mention the BARS!?)

But for reasons I have yet to really understand, Aly decided that Chicago was no longer for her. Expenses were high on her list of reasons, and who am I to argue? But I was sorely disappointed at the thought of losing a close friend; Michigan isn’t very far away, but I know what it’s like when people sometimes even just move to the suburbs … it becomes hard to keep in touch. I’ll own it all; it’s hard to keep up the closeness and the camaraderie of seeing someone once, twice, sometimes three times a week. I was saddened at the thought of not having Aly around.

As is the standard in my group of friends, Aly had a going away party. I went, and was lucky enough to be one of the last people there … and then the last. We talked about all sorts of things — things we had seen and done, secrets shared, hopes we had for our futures and memories that made us smile. I had ridden my bike over to Aly’s house that night, and by the time I left, the sun was coming up and I meandered the streets back to my apartment over near the lake. As I reached my intersection, I realized that the times that I actually had the opportunity to see the sun rise over the lake were few and far between, so I ought to go the 1/2 block more over to the bike trail and down to the beach to catch the sun coming up over Lake Michigan. I did, and caught a little piece of this:

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It was a nice way to cap off a great evening. Aly did move back home to Michigan and I’ve kept up with her pursuits through Facebook. She’s continued to bake — she’s endeavoring to create a granola line, although I’ve always had greater plans for her in *my* mind. I want her to start a Kickstarter or a Fundly or what-the-fuck-ever and get money to start her own bakery. I know that just like all the cupcake queens before her, she will rise to the top and win over hearts and minds with her skills in the kitchen. She might make it with granola, but she will kill it with her cooking.

She’s also started writing for several local publications up in her hometown and that’s pretty rad, too. I must say that I do wish she could do all of that right here in my fine city, because I’m just so selfish that way.

But not Aly. I don’t think she has a selfish bone in her body. I got to see her as a surprise at a party I had this winter, and I was completely taken back when I arrived home this winter to find a small package addressed to me. It contained a small note card (with a cupcake on the front, natch) and inside was a note from Aly — she said that she was going through some boxes when she got home; she remembered that I loved cufflinks and that when she found these, she thought of me and sent them along. I was floored. First, that she remembered such a simple, small thing about me and then, that she took the time to send them to me. Clearly, I can’t remember to take the time to write a thank you note, make a phone call or get around to writing the blog posts I want to.

So. Here are the pictures of my rad, new cufflinks. And here is my thank you and tribute to my good friend, Aly, who I miss so much and who I treasure. Aly, this is long overdue, but thank you. Thank you. You are truly one of the good ones. Namaste, lady.

Rad cufflinks (there’s ones with super awesome snouts!):

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you never can tell

watching sober house on VH1 is pretty painful. not for the reasons you might, think — me, being such a reality show junkie (pun intended). it’s not the has-been celebrities or even the “who’s that? *are they* a celebrity?” roundabout sort of things that are going on there. it’s literally that the drama that is being shown on there is really that — drama. it’s hard to explain. the drama of the jersey shore ridics or the hills or rock of love is all pale in comparison to sober house.

the jersey shore people are so stupid and ridiculous it’s just painful to watch them. it’s truly a reality show people watch to feel completely superior to the people they’re watching on tv. it’s ironic then, that these people have blown up to become temporary household catch phrases and pop culture watchwords; if only to be cautionary tales of what happens when you drop in a tanning booth too many times a week or find yourself gazing too longingly at an ed hardy catalog by accident with your wallet too nearby. the drama here is bombastic and childish and purely laughable — whatever ill befalls these people will be made up for in endorsements and appearance fees.

as i understand it, the hills was some sort of strange hybrid of real people acting out some sort of hollywood life-script that took on a life of its own — creating strange characters that ended up walking out of the show like godzillas off a movie soundstage — wreaking havoc wherever they went and becoming plasticized versions of real human beings. dear lord. i can honestly say i never did end up watching an episode of that show. the drama here walks the line between script and soul-sucking.

and rock of love. a competition show where some sort of nostalgic figure comes back a lot worse for the wear to incite the children of his fans to compete in various slutty challenges for his affection and the chance to be his right-hand woman. the drama that ensues is tantalizing; each woman plays out some sort of character, having been cast as such when she was hand-picked by the producers for the show. there are fights between villains and all out brawls; alliances are created and plans and schemes hatches. people are backstabbed and tales are tattled. there is hardly anything more satisfying than a good romance-competition-drama on the old Video Hits One. so, so, delicious.

sober house presents a different kind of drama — one that might appear to have some of the same elements as some of the other reality shows. there is nitpicking and verbal sparring. there are people who seem to have it out for each other and can never really seem to get along. at every turn, there seems to be some sort of drama always spilling out; some sort of tension under the surface just waiting to go into overdrive. i could see where people would think this was scripted or that people were being dramatic just to play to the cameras.

but the reason it’s painful for me to watch is that i recognize these people. not as celebrities, but as recovering alcoholics and addicts. i get it. i know these people. i’ve seen them all before, and on some level, i’ve been (and can be) them before. i can see the people who are taking their recovery seriously, and i can see the people who are struggling. moreover, i can see the people who are totally pushing buttons and just doing their best not only to sabotage their own recovery, but completely fuck with the serenity and progress of the people around them.

it’s such a reminder of how powerful addiction is, and what it looks like on other people. i don’t care if you’ve had millions of dollars or who you used to fuck or what sorts of people you used to hang with — when alcoholism and addiction come a-callin’, it just all looks the same. it looks the same kicking ass and it looks the same leaving town. i am so happy for the people who seem to be understanding what it takes to recover, and i’m horrified and scared for the people on there who seem to be swinging in the breeze.

meanwhile, i really need to get to bed, because unlike all the trouble i have getting up for everything — somehow i’ve agreed to get up at 7:45ish to be picked up at 8:30 tomorrow to do 12-step stuff. there certainly are paradoxes around here. i don’t know how i’m always able to do stuff for that, but can’t manage to take care of stuff for myself. you just never can tell.

amnesia

i’m sure i’ve said it before, but one of my ongoing dreads is the idea that i’ll be forgotten. maybe even by myself. i’m going to move in a couple of months, and as i look around at all the stuff i’ve accumulated, i’m just begging myself to get rid of it. but a lot of times, as i go through stuff, i realize that i save a good amount of it because i need it to remember things by. letters friends have written me and cards people have sent. pictures that were taken and doodles written on a piece of paper in another lifetime.

i need these things to remind me that things were different once, that i had relationships that weren’t all bad and that there were times that were good in my history. that things were simpler and sweeter sometimes. that i had a past where people didn’t put me in a closet hung up with labels: sober, manic-depressive, ex-_____, what once was, what has been.

i need those things to reassure me that some of the things i have floating around in my head aren’t foolish ideas; that they were in fact real. that i’m not making them up — that other people willingly participated and had a good time, too. that they were the ones who went out of their way to tell me good things or to reach out to me in friendship or dare i say, in romance.

i rarely look at any of that stuff. it’s not like i spend hours a day reminiscing over the ‘good old times.’ shit, i spend too many hours floundering around on the internet wasting time keeping myself occupied and away from any feeling to do that. so, before anyone thinks i’m spending *too* much time in grey gardens, don’t get too worried. but when i go to throw it all away and i decide to sort through it, that’s when i get caught up. that’s when i just can’t make myself destroy the physical manifestation of memory i have. because, often, that’s all i have left.

honestly, i’m left to wonder sometimes what lens other people see things through. and even though i just said that ‘what other people think of me is none of my business,’ i have to say that it whirs around in my head a little bit. that nagging fear that everyone has gone on with their lives and the part i played or the space i took up now means nothing to them. i think it’s just because i’ve always been filled with such a huge sense of nostalgia. even things that didn’t go on to turn out very well at all — well, i’ve always had a sense of longing for resolution and for well-wishes. i never forget certain things even as my memory continues to whitewash so much of the rest of my past, leaving me desperately wondering for details.

i know. things change, people change. part of it is that i run into people and i wonder if they remember the same things i do. if the same things are important to them. if they miss anything like i do. i know i’ve been feeling sorry for myself lately, but i’ve been looking around and just getting the sinking feeling that i’m set out on a solitary course headed for the middle of nowhere. this isn’t where i was supposed to be. but i also know that i’ve been the one steering the ship, so who do i have to blame? no one.

i feel foolish. i’ve made a lot of poor choices. so lamenting them here really isn’t super useful. it’s the near 4 am sorrow that strikes, i’m sure. so i suppose i’ll leave off and hope things look a little better in the morning. i can hope. it generally turns out that way. monday will mark 6 years i’ve been at this. can you believe that? i can’t. seems sort of ridiculous, really. but that’s what i know today. come here, blog now and then, and see what happens. and so it goes. and maybe this way, i keep remembering not to forget.

There ain’t no one going to turn me ’round

When I went to college and worked for WONC, the radio station there, many things happened to me musically. I learned about all sorts of music and I gained friendships to last a lifetime. “Alternative” was still relevant as a music term — it meant something, even though if you looked at the music it referenced, it covered all sorts of genres and artists.

All sorts of holes in my musical history books were filled in and expanded; where my father had left me with a vast knowledge of all things oldies station and my mother was 70s FM, I had managed to soak up all things from the top 40s radio of the 1980s. But all classic rock, new wave, punk, indie rock, folk, bluegrass, rap, and pretty much anything that didn’t fall within those first three categories were left off my radar completely.

I had so much to learn. Squeeze, XTC, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, ELO, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones deep cuts, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Van Morrison, Dire Straits, Material Issue, Toad the Wet Sprocket, 10,000 Maniacs, most of R.E.M., Indigo Girls, Del Amitri, Fountains of Wayne, Shawn Colvin, Soup Dragons, Teenage Fanclub, Uncle Tupelo, Bob Mould, The Replacements, The Posies, Trip Shakespeare, Jellyfish, Nirvana, Dada, James, Lemonheads, Nine Inch Nails, King Missile, Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction, The Raspberries, The Byrds … the list goes on and on and on and on ….

There was a band I had never heard of before. Big Star. Apparently, they were very influential to so many other bands I liked and respected. How could this be? I had never, ever heard of this band. I started to listen and I really liked them. There was something soft and compelling about them. I couldn’t quite say what it was, but I knew that “The Ballad of El Goodo” just floored me every time. I just wanted to sit in the studio and turn the speakers up as loud as I could. And cry somehow, even though I didn’t know why.

Later on, as years went by, it turned out that Big Star had “reunited” as such. The Posies, another band I learned about and loved from back in college, was touring with Alex Chilton, the lead singer (who also had a song written about him by The Replacements), and they were coming to (Cabaret) Metro. Would we be there? Of course we would.

My friends, Shawn and Ryan, and I got tickets and went to the show. We were standing front row. They had told me that Alex could be unpredictable; that he was known to be moody and sullen sometimes on stage, and other times he was magnanimous and a gracious host. I was trying not to have high expectations; from they way they made it seem, he was often more burdened by the resentment of a career that was more critically acclaimed than materially successful, and although I didn’t want him to come off as bitter or unhappy, who was I to judge these secret wishes or someone else’s dark days?

As is often the case, I had no idea who the opening band was or what to expect. Again, it’s often better to have no expectations and to hope for the medium and go from there. The opening band, Frisbie, walked out in matching outfits, ala the Beatles, and I was immediately taken. This was a good sign. They started up and I was set adrift in a sea of power pop — jingly jangly and harmonies galore. Their keyboard player would pick up a trumpet and accompany them w/a horn, and between that and the two lead vocalists (one successfully becoming “Paul” and one successfully becoming “John”), I was sold. Fangirl. I was dedicated to seeing them whenever and wherever they played next.

And so it would go for at least the next seven years. Little did I know the things I would see and hear over those years. How I would become friends with that band. How I would see them rise and fall and break up and come together. How I would see them suffer at the hands of mental illness and how I would also suffer at the hands of my own. They would get married and some would get divorced. They would have children; I would get sober. They would lose friends and so would I. They would make new ones and so would I. There was no way to say that moment in time would mark the beginning of an era. There never is — history is only known from the future and hindsight always and only becomes clearer as you walk away from it.

Frisbie ended with a perfect cacophony in their song “Mourning Machines,” and I can say for one, that I was blissfully stunned. And I don’t remember what happened after that except for Big Star was wonderful. Alex was fine. He was superb. He wasn’t upset or sarcastic or moody. He played songs and sang and I was so happy to be there. I couldn’t quite believe it.

Just like yesterday — I couldn’t quite believe it. Alex Chilton was dead? I saw on Twitter a reference to a Big Star song and made a comment not knowing what the Tweet was referencing. For some reason, I went to that person’s page to read more of his tweets and saw the news. It was like someone had shoved me back into the couch. I was so sad. I was so, so, so sad. I went and played “The Ballad of El Goodo” and cried some.

I normally am not a person who cries at celebrity (was Alex Chilton a celebrity?) deaths. It seems weird and trite and strange. I didn’t know him. I never met him. I didn’t have …. but I DID have a personal connection with him. He might not have had one with *me,* but I most certainly did have a personal connection with him. I have memories that are associated with his music and they evoke very strong emotions. I have people and places and things that wouldn’t be in my life if it weren’t for going to see him perform. I have an era of my life that I associate with getting to know him.

It seems so sudden. Maybe that’s the best way. Maybe now he can stop “trying hard against unbelievable odds …” Godspeed, Alex. Godspeed.

tidying things up

you know why i never get anything accomplished when i try and clean up my living space, declutter, throw things out, try and make sense of all the stuff i have accumulated over 20 years of being out on my own?? because i get lost in a sea of the past, set adrift on memories, awash in old feelings, left to remember things and ruminate about all that has happened since then. what does it mean, what could it have been, why do things go the way they do, could they have changed, how do i work, when did things go bad or good or better or worse? i look around and see i’ve become more confused and discombobulated than this last season of LOST.

i just found a picture that i had forgotten existed. it’s probably the most intimate picture that’s ever been taken of me. i have all my clothes on. but it catches me in a moment of pure emotion, with no one else watching but the camera. it’s a moment only for two, and for all the hundreds of (thousands?) hours i’ve spent executing movie scenes in my head, nothing has come close to perfection as this picture. to my knowledge, no one else has seen this picture but me and the person who took it. who knows — maybe i was foolish and showed people at the very beginning after it had been shown to me. it was in another time and place, so i might have.

but i came across that picture when i was cleaning, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. i was completely taken aback. i didn’t even know what to think. there were so many questions swirling: who? where? what? when? why? how? any and all variations on those themes. many questions starting with those words. and so i came to blog, so i could get on with my cleaning. like playing a song that’s stuck in your head with the hopes that you’ll be rid of it.

i think i did the job.

borrowing from peter to pay paul …

was on frank’s website (this guy i know from twitter), and i left this comment. it seems like it could be a post on its own, so i stole it from there and brought it here.

i just went and saw gia’s website … i don’t know any of your history, only some work tweets. i’m sending a fond thought to you and your family. i know it’s MUCH different, but my grandma died two years ago the 28th, and it’s strange to be happy and festive and a little melancholy at the same time.

you didn’t ask, but my favorite religious song is ‘o holy night.’ my favorite secular song … there’s many. i’ll go with ‘rockin’ around the christmas tree’ for uptempo (I LOVE THAT SONG!) and ‘have yourself a merry little christmas’ for slow tempo. modern day — ’same auld lang syne’ by dan fogelberg* and my generation’s christmas goodie, ‘merry christmas will do’ by material issue.

can you tell i love music? it’s part of any tradition i have. our family has lost extended members over the years and i miss a lot of the things we used to do. i hope to reinstate the family tradition of going around to look at christmas lights with my friends here in chicago. there’s something about it that just makes me happy. (and there’s also the schadenfreude of horrible decorating!)

anyway … wish you well this holiday season.

*dan fogelberg. i’ve loved that guy since i was a kid. this is just one of many things that makes me think i’m an ‘old soul.’ how can you have melancholy nostalgia when you’re 10?!? but, i’ve always loved this song, save for the sappy-ass saxophone solo at the end.

time machine

i have a few errands before i go to work today. one of which includes target, the other joann fabrics (i need a button for my coat). as i was lying in bed, praying to god to help me get the fuck out of the bed and going over my tasks for today, i wished that i could get the buttons at target. but would they have a ‘notions’ section? and certainly not one extensive to buy the buttons at.

i suddenly had a flash of the kmart of my youth … they actually had a pretty extensive sewing/crafts section. to the point where you could pick up bolts of fabric, patterns and the sewing accessories to make an outfit. i was just remembering that and feeling a wee bit nostalgic for those times. times when my sister and i could run around and hide in the clothes racks without my mother really freaking out, fearing that we’d get snatched up. times when there were blue light specials and you could buy an icee from there.

it is these memories (and the flashback to the woolworth’s in the mall in milwaukee recently) that give me the distinct sensation that i am part of a particular generation. generation X, i guess, but i feel a distance now between where and how i lived and people who have come after me. i don’t know how i feel about it. part of me feels old. especially since i haven’t accomplished a lot of things i thought i would by now. but part of me feels special for having gone through a particular space in time.

thoughts before work. yipes.